Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's nice to see...

...that our local law enforcement officers can handle controversy and change with such restraint and decorum. Really, very productive, boys. Nice example for the kids.
"The chief ordered officers to avoid parking illegally on any public or private street at a construction site, walking within a marked construction zone, interfering with workers, directing obscene language or gestures at workers, or taking any other actions intended to disrupt the flow of traffic or impede work."
DA look at flagger protest sought. (Boston Globe)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Sinister Biology of Disney

Disney Lab Unveils Its Latest Line Of Genetically Engineered Child Stars

Yet another reason why we need tighter control on genetic engineering. No stem cells for Disney!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Soapbox: A note to my fellow MBTA riders

MBTA ridership is up, which is a good thing. But still, none of really enjoy having to ride the T. Unless it's the commuter rail, which -- if you can get a seat and it's running on time and the heat or air conditioning (depending on the season) is running appropriately (lots of if's, I know) -- can be a pretty cushy ride.

But we can't all ride the commuter rail. Some of us have to take the bus and the subway. Which can sometimes be pleasant, sometimes less so. And while I know this is a topic that's been beaten to death in manyh ways and many different forums, today, my gentle T-riding readers, it is my turn to add to the dialog on etiquette when using public transportation.

There are certain things, which together can be lumped under the terms "good manners,", "common courtesy," or "proper consideration," that can make the ride more pleasant and convenient for everyone. Three, in particular, come to mind at the moment:
  1. Step to the back of the bus as it fills up. When getting on a bus -- particularly one that is already somewhat crowded, doesn't have any empty seats, and still has a way to go -- the proper thing to do is step to the back. Don't plant yourself standing in the aisle at the front of the bus. Standing by the back door is alright, as long as you have a way to get out of the way when people have to get off. What you should not do -- and I'm looking at you, girl in the pink shirt with the gray backpack on the 36 bus to Forest Hills yesterday morning -- is plant yourself in front of the steps leading up to the rear platform of the bus and refuse to move further back while the aisle in front of you fills up to the point that people are jammed hip-to-hip while half the bus remains empty behind you. You dolt.
  2. Step all the way into the subway train. The train operators even tell us this using their "Sound of God from above" PA system..."Step all the way into the train." Why do they tell us this? Not because the like to hear their own voices. Rather, it is because if you step onto the train, immediately grab the railing, and plant yourself half way in the aisle, half way in the doorway -- like you did, young East Asian lady with the glasses and blue tank top on the Red Line to Alewife this morning, or you, sir, the guy staring down the blouse of the attractive yet clearly uncomfortable woman sitting in front of you, oblivious to all but her cleavage -- people like me have to elbow their way around you. And by elbow, I mean elbow. Or shoulder. Or shove. I no longer have any qualms about ramming my messenger bag into your lower back, or dropping a shoulder as I to try to make my way around you to access the completely empty middle stretch of the train car. There was a time once when I did have such qualms. That time has passed.
  3. Shower. Or take a bath. I don't care about the hygenic norms of your home culture. You are now in the US, in Boston to be specific, and here people shower in the morning. Unlike you, sir, man of indeterminate Middle Eastern or Southern Asian descent who was fairly well dressed yet smelled as though he'd not been in the company of water nor soap in a fortnight. You, who, in the sardine can that was our shared Orange Line car yesterday morning, made it a ride nauseating experience. For God's sake, and that of the sinuses around you, go take a shower. Update: As if to make my point....
It's a lot to ask you to show some common courtesy to your other commuters and maybe take notice of your surroundings, but I think you can do it.

I hope you have enjoyed the first installment of what will likely become a semi-regular feature, The Soapbox. There's more where that came from, don't worry. Charlie Card and sardine pictures by flickr users redjar and elsiemarley, respectively.

Heh heh...heh

I see 4 possible futures for this guy:

1) Future X man (an evil one, 'cause only the evil ones have flame throwers, right?)
2) Engineer for Tony Stark
3) Prison
4) Intensive care in a burn unit

From Wired.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Do we really need a new browser?

As some of you may have heard, Google, in their ongoing campaign for online domination (hey, I have a Gmail account, I use Google Reader, and Blogger, which I use to host my blog, is owned by...guess who?), released their own web browser, called Chrome. Thus, we now have 5 significant players in the desktop web browser space...Microsoft (Internet Explorer), Opera (Opera Browser), Apple (Safari), Mozilla (Firefox), and Google.

Now, I understand that Google looks to Chrome to provide greater flexibility and integration to match the growing richness of the content available on the web. But Google is already a significant supporter of Firefox...why not just work with Mozilla to bring that functionality to Firefox? So is this really innovation for the sake of advancing the evolution of the web, or is it innovation for the sake of innovation?

Or innovation for the sake of control? Seems there's some interesting language in Chrome's license agreement that basically gives Google rights to any content you create using Chrome. So, for instance, if I wrote this blog post using Chrome, they could use it however they wanted. (By the way, here is what the Blogger terms of service say about my intellectual property rights: "Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services.")

I think I'll pass for the moment.

(Note: Google has since announced that they'll be removing that language from its license agreement. Why was it there in the first place?)

It's all about the birds and the bees...and the cows?

I've heard of animal magnetism, but this is ridiculous. It's long been known that birds use the Earth's magnetic field to guide their migrations. But apparently cows have some kind of internal compass as well. And how was this discovered? Through the collective knowledge of generations of farmers? By comprehensive study by veterinarians?

No. By using Google Earth.

Knowing that small mammals, like bats, also have a magnetic sense, a group of researchers decided to see if large mammals, particularly domestic cattle. To figure it out, they looked at more than 8,500 Google Earth images, and found that cows tend to face either north or south.

No one knows precisely how this happens, how cattle and other animals "know" north and south from east and west (the researcher ruled out solar position in the sky as an influencing factor), but it may be that this "sixth sense" is widespread in the animal kingdom.

So think about might have your own little GPS in your brain. But that still probably wouldn't keep you from getting lost on the streets of Boston...where Rt. 93 South and Rt. 95 North are the same road.

Candid cow closeup by flickr user

"So, how do the people of New Orleans feel about Sarah Palin"

That was one of Jon Stewart's lines on the Daily Show last night. It is amazing how in the span of less than a week, the good Ms. Palin has suddenly gone from gubernatorial obscurity in a state wedged between Canada and Russia to a lightening rod for both right and left. I have to say, when I think about McCain's choice of VP nominee, I keep going back and forth between "Huh?" and "What the....?"

Here's the thing that really bothers me about Ms. Palin, and it has nothing to do with the experience question, or the questionable ethics (Read: the whole book banning thing, the love/hate relationship with earmarks, and the dismissal of the state police commissioner), or her creationist stance when it comes to science education.

It has to do with hypocrisy within the Republican party: She is being held up as a poster child for conservative family values, but she had her first child out of wedlock and she put her career ahead of her five-month old baby with Down's syndrome. And somehow, teenage pregnancy is now okay with the conservative right, as long as it is Sarah Palin's daughter and she has a shotgun wedding.

Is this a sexist attitude? Perhaps. Doesn't Barack Obama have young children who, should he be elected president, will have their lives turned upside down and effectively be raised without father? That is true, yes, but then again neither of his girls appear to have any kinds of special needs.

My opinion? For the sake of her youngest child, Palin should have declined the offer when McCain made it. I understand that people have to make sacrifices when called to serve, but should those sacrifices be extended to one's children, particular those who truly need the care of both parents? And was it in her oldest daughter's best interest to have her pregnancy nationally outed (and we all know it would have remained a private family affair had Palin said 'no,' but was absolutely going to be made public once she said 'yes')?

And if she had been a Democrat, wouldn't the Republicans be jumping all over her?

I have a great new campaign slogan: "Help Sarah Palin practice family values. On November 4, vote Barack Obama."